Saturday, May 3, 2008

Blackboard Still Vastly Inferior to Moodle

I received some comments on my last post “Blackboard Vastly Inferior to Moodle.” An anonymous poster wished for more information, more support to backup my claims. While it was not my intention to make a long discussion about whether Blackboard is better than Moodle for everybody, I will address some of the comments.


It is always good form to consider the source when you get comments from somebody. Comments that are from persons who have only used one cms or another could not be considered very valid because that person has no experience using both systems. Comments from Blackboard's lawyers should be treated differently than comments from a Moodle developer. Blackboard's lawyers have allegedly been calling Desire2Learn customers and bullying them into switching to Blackboard.


Clearly the ethos of a potential poster is an important indicator of why they are really posting. But online, we do not have the advantage of knowing a poster on our Blogs, especially if they hide behind the name anonymous. But for this posting, I am going to assume the comments were made by someone with an open mind who is pushing me to give more evidence that supports my claims that Blackboard is vastly inferior to Moodle. I will provide this evidence.


The commenter first asked:

I'm not sure I understand how you can view that Blackboard is vastly inferior to Moodle. The only example you list is the clicks it takes to set up a group.
For the purpose of this analysis, page loads should be considered more detrimental to performance in the course management system than clicks because they usually take longer than a simple click.

  • Adding an item to a course Blackboard 3 clicks, two page loads, Moodle 4 clicks, two page loads.

  • Removing the same item Blackboard 2 clicks, 1 page load, Moodle 2 clicks, two page loads.

  • Hiding an item in the course Blackboard 4 clicks 2 page loads, Moodle 1 click no page loads

  • Re-showing an item Blackboard 4 clicks, 2 page loads, Moodle 1 click no page loads

  • Adding a discussion board Blackboard 4 clicks, 3 page loads, Moodle 3 clicks, 2 page loads

  • Remove discussion board Blackboard 2 clicks, 1 page load, Moodle 2 clicks, 2 page loads

  • Add 4 users to a group Blackboard 20 clicks, 6 page loads, Moodle 6 clicks, 2 page loads

  • Remove a user from a group Blackboard 8 clicks, 6 page loads, Moodle 6 clicks, 2 page loads

  • Add an assignment to a course Blackboard 6 clicks 2 page loads, Moodle 4 clicks 2 page loads

  • Removing an assignment Blackboard 2 clicks one page load, Moodle 2 clicks, 2 page loads

  • List all users in the course Blackboard 4 clicks, 3 page loads, Moodle 1 click, one page load

  • Viewing and grading an assignment for 4 students with comments Blackboard 22 clicks, 6 page loads, Moodle, 15 clicks, 1 page load

If you were to do all of the above tasks in each management system the total clicks and page loads would be:

  • Blackboard – 76 clicks, 33 page loads
  • Moodle – 41 clicks, 18 page loads

This IS a significant difference between the two. Feel free to post requests for more click/page load tests if you are still curious since these do not cover every possible activity in the learning management systems. Any additional requests will likely follow the same lines, with Moodle requiring only about 53% of the clicks and 54% of the page loads than Blackboard to do the same thing.


Lets look at the important factor of satisfaction with an online learning system. The folks at Humboldt state university did a study that supports my hypothesis that Blackboard is vastly inferior to Moodle. It is a good read. http://www.humboldt.edu/~jdv1/moodle/all.htm. I have done no independent research on this, but then again satisfaction was not my claim except for my own satisfaction of the course management systems.


The anonymous person also asked:

What are the many more features that Moodle has compared to Blackboard?
Comparing potential features, like those featured on a website but not added into the cms, is not good practice since those features could cost too much for your institution or may be in beta versions. Therefore, only features that come with the default installation of Moodle and standard versions of Blackboard are compared here. This was part of an analysis I did of learning management systems including Blackboard, Moodle and another learning management system. Keep in mind that the quality ratings are somewhat subjective, but the present ratings are not:


Feature

Blackboard

Moodle

Forum

7/10

8/10

Email

8/10

2/10

Notes

8/10

8/10

Chat

6/10

6/10

Blog/Journal

Not present

10/10

Whiteboard

8/10

Not present

Course Calendar

10/10

10/10

Help features

2/10

10/10

Groups

5/10

8/10

Quizzes

8/10

10/10

Gradebook

8/10

8/10

Customizable interface

2/10

7/10

Linear lessons

5/10

5/10

Survey Tools

7.5/10

6/10

Wiki

Not present

10/10

Workshop

5/10

7/10

Total Present

14

15

Total Quality Score

87.5

115


I may have missed a few of the features, but those listed above are the ones important to my work. I also missed some features that are obviously a part of any system, such as user authentication, assignments etc. Whether or not you agree with my quality ratings of the different cms features is up to you. But before you decide, I hope you have as much experience as I do building and teaching courses in both course management systems so that you can make an educated decision.


There are plenty of other works done comparing Moodle and blackboard and it only takes a minute to search for them in google if you care to take the time. Here are a few of these:

http://ssedro.blogspot.com/2007/05/why-moodle-instead-of-blackboard.html

http://learnonline.wordpress.com/2007/07/04/moodle-vs-blackboard-in-nz/

http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=9345 (Login as a guest)



The anonymous commenter also added:

I don't see how Moodle is any more "designed for constructivism" than any other cms...
I cannot give a detailed list of constructivist features of all course management systems, but I can write about what I have experience in. Let's also take another look at the chart above and determine if features that are more constructivist are part of Blackboard's or Moodle's standard installations.


Constructivism often emphasizes shared knowledge, especially the ability to discuss and defend ones knowledge with peers. This is supported by communication tools that allow discussion of subject matter among peers including chat, forums and blogs/journals. Other constructivist features of forums include forum rating systems that allow grading. Group features are considered constructivist because they allow group collaboration. Surveys could be considered constructivist because they allow instructors to find out what students are thinking. Wiki's fit within the constructivist view, more specifically in the idea of constructionism, where learners are encouraged to collaborate in the creation of a unique artifact. Workshops, or peer-assessments are used to allow peers to grade peers, allowing peers to learn more in the process.


Lets see how the course management systems add up. Looking back at the chart we find the following:

  • Forums – present in both Blackboard and Moodle at about the same quality
  • Chat – present in both Blackboard and Moodle at about the same quality
  • Blog/Journal – present in Moodle but not Blackboard
  • Groups – present in both Blackboard and Moodle with Moodle's group features more enhanced
  • Survey tools – present in both Blackboard and Moodle with Blackboard's survey more robust
  • Wiki – present in only Moodle
  • Workshop – present in both Blackboard and Moodle, Moodle's Workshop feature being superior to Blackboard's self and peer assessment.

The above evidence supports my claim that Moodle is more constructivist than Blackboard. But of course this is well documented too if you are willing to do a little research. Martin Dougiamas, original founder and builder of Moodle built Moodle to follow theories of “social constructionism,” which is deeply situated within the constructivist epistemological stance. As listed above, this philosophy shows in Moodle's features. I was unable to find any information about the underlying learning theories that guided the creation of Blackboard on Blackboard's website.


Of course, there are many factors that affect a decision on which course management system an institution should adopt, and those mentioned above are but a few of them. Factors such as cost of software, hosting, total cost of ownership, student needs, instructor needs are just a few of these. But if you choose to go with Blackboard, take a hard look at whether your institution wants to use more constructivist features. Also consider that it will take about 46 percent longer for your faculty to effectively do something in Blackboard than it will in Moodle, and factor in this cost of loss of productivity.


12 comments:

  1. This appears a throughouh analysis with which I can agree. Also consider that from a course development (and ed techie geek) side, Moodle provides much greater flexibility and control.

    Thanks for the insightful comparison!

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  2. Would you please list the version of Blackboard you are basing these results against.

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  3. I used the latest version of Blackboard (8), My Moodle version is not quite the latest (1.8), there is a new version out (1.9) and we have not upgraded to it yet.

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  4. When I saw your feature list, I was quite confused. I use Blackboard Campus Edition 6. It does have blogs and journals which you said didn't exist, and the click rates are much different from what you reported.

    It wasn't until I saw your comment that I realized we were comparing different Blackboard products. You were talking about the original Blackboard LMS line but we use what used to be WebCT.

    I guess that shows the importance of listing specific version numbers when giving comparisons.

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  5. i love blackboard moodle sucks!!

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  6. We have both Moodle (1.8.3+) and Blackboard (7.3.159.29- not sure when we will go to 8.0). About 80% of our classes use Bb and 20% use Moodle, partly because we had Bb first.

    We acquired Moodle a few ago to give disgruntled Bb users an option; also because Bb had a major meltdown due to a surge of users and courses; and because my institution likes open-source for a lot of reasons, control being one of them, presumed cost-savings being another (I say presumed because open-source requires a LOT more development and support and maintenance than propietary systems, and this is not free, but neither is it always included in the cost-savings calculations.)

    I digress. Although I know that Moodle was developed with constructivist principles in mind, I haven't seen where Moodle and Blackboard are much different in actually promoting constructivist learning. They are just environments/tools. It seems to me that the constructivism comes into play when the instructor develops their course incorporating constructivist activities: pre-assessment of various kinds, inquiry, collaboration, reflection, choices, etc. You can do this in Moodle and Blackboard pretty much equally as well. Now this is a subjective thing and some people love or hate one or the other. But no listing of features really favors one or the other in the actual support of learning. I truly believe that it comes down to the instructor and how the LMS is used.

    That's where my area comes in. We work with faculty who teach online and use it to supplement their classroom courses. We need to teach more constructivist-oriented methods and leverage the tools in both LMSs to achieve constructivist goals. And we're moving in that direction.

    ReplyDelete
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  8. Curious about your comparison of the mail functions.

    In Moodle I like:

    1. The ability to use HTML to increase clarity,

    2. The way it saves all the mails you've sent where you can see who you sent each one to, and

    3. The fact that you can choose to change permissions so students can use the mailer.

    I haven't used the BB9 mail program. This is a comparison of Moodle 1.9 with BB 8.

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  9. Well, having just spent 2 hours failing to post quiz grades on Moodle, I say give me back Blackboard! Even with its extra mouse clicks and lack of flexibility and overall clunkiness. At least it works for someone who's mainly concerned with teaching their (classroom) course.

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